Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Again, Christmas Draws Near

December Again, Christmas Draws Near
It was a year ago the 6th of December that we arrived in Demopolis, Alabama to ready Leap for Caribbean cruising. In the months that followed we worked hard getting Leap ready and sailing her here to Utila, Honduras, with stops along the way in Mexico and ever so briefly, Belize.

Leap moored in East Harbor Utila, Honduras

We have had bouts of  exuberant joy, soothing tranquility, fear, heartbreak and depression.  We have had tranquil days snorkeling in beautiful turquoise waters, watching gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, frolicking with dolphins, eating and drinking well and generally enjoying life. We have also had days of  dead reefs, equipment failure, storms and the biggest setback - The Lightning Strike. All of these emotions, high and low, have brought us contemplative moments allowing us time to ruminate on our observations and big picture questions.
Rumination Sunset

The best snorkeling we have had so far is here in Utila and the Cays to the southwest.
As we were snorkeling the other day along the reef on the north side of Utila, Charlie said, “It was a beautiful reef back in the day“.

Charlie’s Diving Recollections
As a boy, my family spent many Christmases in the Florida Keys diving. Christmas became sunshine, sand, palm tress, diving and boat trips. Snow and pine trees were a poor substitute for the diving tradition. I have returned to my roots and can say, that I am the more satisfied for it.

Drawing on the countless hours of diving and snorkeling coral reefs, beginning in the Florida Keys in 1962, thru the Mexican Caribbean in 1973, to the Bahamas in the 1980’s and 90‘s; my vivid recollections of coral diversity and its myriad of color, the quantity and varieties of fish life, all instilled a driving motivation to get back and re-live those awe-inspiring moments. Unfortunately I have yet to experience anything during this trip that even vaguely resembles my earlier experiences.

I am however left with the ability to “paint in” what a reef looked like when it was more alive. Before they began to die some of the reefs here in Utila would have been amazing and  I can still imagine what once was.  My motivation to go diving is far less than I would have predicted; the scale of the loss, hard to bear. The sights and life of the reef is simply a small remnant of my years previous dives.

Recently, I took my first scuba dive in 30 years. It allowed me to relax and observe the reef more closely than I can when I am free diving.  I was a little more encouraged after the dive, but not much. Overall, things are getting worse. I strongly encourage anyone wishing to see at least a partially alive reef, to do so soon.
Two Spotfin Butterflyfish on a dying reef 

Karen’s Diving Recollections
Being a Wisconsin girl that learned to dive in freshwater, a salt water reef dive was a spectacular kaleidoscope of color and life. My first reef dive experience was in 1979 in Florida followed by dives in the Bahamas in the 80’s and 90’s.
One of my favorite memories was the time Charlie’s parents - Chuck and Norma, and my parents- Dean and Sue, came to visit us in West End, Grand Bahamas. We all went snorkeling on a beautiful Staghorn coral reef. Charlie’s parents had snorkeled all over the world, but for my parents, it was a first. My mother a non-swimmer, never let go of Charlie’s hand, yet had a great time and the memory is still with her. Skyping with my Mom the other day about our snorkeling outing  here in Utila she asked, ”I bet you got to see all those pretty colorful fish?”
And yes, there are small colorful tropicals, but the coral is dying and large reef fish are practically non-existent.

Come See For Yourself
Those visiting a reef for the first time today may wonder what all the fuss is about. Without a past vision  one would  not realize the reef is not all that impressive today. With the situation worsening  visiting  a reef sooner than later is highly encouraged - we can‘t stress it enough.  We still keep searching for a last remaining “glory site”. If we find one you better come quick, it won’t last long.

Our Christmas Tree - sea urchins with hand woven palm frond skirt

Counting Our Blessings
Gratefulness:  to be able to sail both physically and mentally. To be kept safe when we have endured storms. Great coffee; Chiapas coffee in Mexico and Honduran coffee in Utila. Grateful we have each other.

Fortunate: we have enough to get by for now, as wealthy we are not, in dollars that is. Our added wealth comes from our experiences, people we've met, places visited and situations dealt with - adding to our skill set - and hopefully making us employable upon our return.

Humor: Even when the “sails are down” due to unexpected events we have a history of keeping our sense of humor. Besides, who else has the patience and better understands the quirkiness of the other? Or, shares in the vision that brought us this far?

Setting the Course Ahead
In the coming weeks, we will sail west to Rio Dulce, Guatemala as we want to visit “The Rio” before leaving this region. Once we leave Guatemala we will head back east, past Utila, stopping in Roatan and Guanaja before heading  south to; Isla de Providencia, then further south to Panama and its Bocas del Toro region and its San Blas Islands.

 We hope this post finds all well with everyone and that you are luxuriating in family, friends, good food and spirits of your choice (Tom & Jerry anyone?)  but most importantly - building great memories!
Yes, the picture is fuzzy, as we are rocking and rolling on the mooring today and yes too, having a bit of pre - Christmas Cheer in our red-neck wineglasses just to get in the spirit of things for this post.

We miss our family and friends immensely, but not the snow and cold!
From our hearts to yours -
Have a very Merry Christmas and we wish you and yours, all that is the best in the New Year.

New Years Resolution - Frolic More


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Encounters That Are Not About The Weather

Really- it isn't always about the weather.

The following pictures were taken by fellow cruising friends of some of our wildlife encounters.

Sharing dinner one night in the kitchen at El Milagro with Jim and Katie Coolbaugh and Jose Latimer (not pictured as he is photographer) we heard clang, skitter, clang, skitter and couldn't tell where it was coming from. This went on and on during dinner prep, and while eating, and by the time we got to dessert the sound was constant and louder. So the search began. We found this critter on the bottom shelf in the pots and pans.

Big Land Crab 
Showing off his/her "Don't give me any sh..t!"  claw.

Charlie to the rescue with the largest tongs we could find
as the crab was not interested in receiving assistance. He was snapping and skittering but Charlie persisted.
 Heading to the door and freedom with the claws clacking away at those tongs.
We found out the next day that the locals eat the land crabs claiming they are good.
We did have Land Crab soup here in Utila. It was in a base similar to creamy potato soup and served with half of a crab hanging out of the bowl. This was mostly for looks I think as most of the meat was out of the shell and claw and in the soup. Makes for good presentation - if you aren't sqeamish.

The next set were taken by our friends Steve and Christine on s/v Salacia.

We have a crab trap with us and have been fortunate to have some good crab dinners, but on this day when Charlie pulled up the trap we were surprised by the occupant. Still unsure how he got in or why he thought he should go in.

Flipping the trap over and opening the door to try and set the octopus free
but apparently he had another idea.

Not going so well

He would rather have the dinghy and motor off into the sunset.

Finally with a little coaxing from Charlie, all the while changing color every time he was touched, he finally found freedom over the side of the dinghy.

When we were in Bahia de la Ascension we saw a Manatee and Charlie went for a swim alongside.

As we mentioned in our previous post, it was a joy to see a manatee without propeller cuts in its' back.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cayos Cochinos and the Quartet of Dive Masters

It all started when we rescued Anthony and a friend from a poorly planned canoe outing. They were being blown out of the bay and were attempting to paddle back with a board, as they had no paddles. We watched them for awhile commenting on their sorry state of affairs and when Anthony jumped in the water and tried to pull the canoe along we finally gave in and went over with the dinghy to rescue them. Upon returning to shore Anthony offered to buy us a beer. We then met his wife Alma and friend Laura. There were lots of questions on how we liked the boating life and if they (Anthony & Alma) were to buy a boat what should they get. We offered to take them sailing as they hadn't sailed before. Laura however had been on boats. We were not sure they would take us up on the offer as they were very busy with the finals of dive master classes which they would be finishing up in the next few days.

One afternoon several days later, here they come swimming out to Leap from the dive shop in swim rings. The guys Anthony and Danny were in swim rings too and bringing the beer. They offered to bring back fresh tuna that they had purchased from a local fisherman and we would make ceviche and talk sailing plans.
And so began our friendship and a sailing trip to Cayos Cochinos.

Alma Baer and Laura Adams

                                              Anthony and Alma Baer and Laura Adams



Danny and Alma
All four are backpackers and have been traveling extensively in Central America and are headed south.
Danny is from Spain and is heading for Nicaragua; we will drop him off in La Ceiba, a port on the mainland, on our return sail to Utila.
Laura is from Prince Rupert BC Canada and is headed to Costa Rica then on to Hawaii. Anthony and Alma are from Sacramento, CA  and also heading for Nicaragua. The three will be taking the ferry out of Utila to La Ceiba on Tuesday 11/26 heading to San Pedro Sula catching buses and trekking on.

Dolphins at play from Utila to Cayos Cochinos

Cayos Cochinos are a group of islands located 29 miles southeast of Utila. The island group was declared a Marine National Monument in 2003 and has its own research station, which we've read, welcomes volunteers. We arrived at night - AGAIN - making the count 5 of 8. In the morning we woke to a beautiful double rainbow. 

We moved to this small cove for a morning of snorkeling.

Charlie on the foredeck

The above picture of Leap and the following underwater pictures were taken by the dive masters.
Purple Sea Fans

Brain Coral with Christmas Tree Worms

Laura found a treasure
A young Hawksbill 

Laura and Alma

Charlie cleaning the fish we bought from a local Garifuna fisherman that paddled up to Leap in his cayuga.

We learned all kinds of things from this group but one of the funniest items was from Laura who did/does a lot of camping. We were talking survival skills and what one needs to know in differing circumstances. Laura says she never goes camping without cheetos as they are the best fire starters. None of us of course believed her and she persisted in trying to convince us it was true. Charlie had to see for himself. 
Yes indeed, the little cheetos do put out quite a flame and yes you can start a fire with them.

Setting sail for Utila after dropping Danny in La Ceiba

Alma and Anthony Baer

Laura Adams, Karen, Alma, Charlie


Sunset in route to Utila and yes, we arrived in the dark. 6 of 9!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Utila Scenes

Leap at anchor in East Harbor 

Our view of the mountains on the mainland of Honduras is shrouded in clouds most of the time.

Going to town for dinner at the Jade Seahorse

 This picture of just a small portion of the Jade Seahorse does not do the place justice. The owner as been working on the sculptures and ornamentation for 15 years and still going. He is having website issues now but should the site come back up you should visit it.

The sign below for bike (scooter) rentals advises the maximum speed of 25 km/hr, however, no one goes that slow. The main drag is a very narrow street and no sidewalks. Consequently between the scooters, ATV's,  golf carts and 3-wheel taxis the pedestrian is always on the lookout and forever hopping out of the way.

This is one of the most photographed signs in Utila. The casket shop shares the building with the above bike rental shop.

Street is quiet right now. 

                                                                  Three wheel taxis

                                   Golf Cart and ATV's  also. As you can see there is no parking so                                                                  vehicles get left here and there, and other drivers jostle on by.
During the busy times of day the street is jammed with vehicles and it is a transportation free for all.  It's a -  pedestrians beware - driving attitude.  There is not a sidewalk

The only vehicle not showing in the pictures is the three wheel bikes. One wheel in back two wheels in front with large platform baskets on the front. The other day a gentleman had a refrigerator in his basket and he could not see but pressed on waving his fist over the top, calling out his intentions, turning left through the major 4-way intersection and everyone came to a halt with a screeching of brakes and expletives.
We theorized his need to push on through was due to having momentum, as we imagined it a bit of a struggle to get the whole shebang rolling.

Sunset  - the rays were quite spectacular this evening.
The next two pictures were taken by our dive master friends, Anthony and Alma Baers and Laura Neadam. Leap is the second sailboat from the right out in the distance.